Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
arrowPress Releases
October 24, 2014
PR Newswire
View All

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

Wii U GamePad reverse-engineered
May 15, 2013 | By Mike Rose

A group of developers has reverse-engineered the Nintendo Wii U GamePad, peeling back the layers to discover the methods by which the controller connects with the main Wii U console.

Speaking to Eurogamer, developer Pierre Bourdon noted, "The GamePad is actually not a very secure device... The device firmware is stored in an unencrypted Flash, which allowed us to reverse engineer the binary code pretty easily."

Since the GamePad communicates via a variation on the 802.11n wireless networking standard, this meant that Bourdon and his team were able to simulate the GamePad on a PC, as shown in the above video.

It turns out that the GamePad's controller inputs are sent to the Wii U console 180 times a second. An in-depth look at the logistics can be found in the Eurogamer write-up.

Related Jobs

Gearbox Software
Gearbox Software — Plano, Texas, United States

Server Programmer
Giant Sparrow
Giant Sparrow — Playa Vista, California, United States

Junior 3D Artist
Giant Sparrow
Giant Sparrow — Playa Vista, California, United States

Lead Artist
Amazon — Seattle, Washington, United States

Event Marketing Specialist, Game Services


Wayne Beck
profile image
No need to make it secure. It's a controller. If anyone tries to copy it, they will be sued and sued hard. It's not like people are going to be Pirating Wii U Gamepads or something.

180 times a second sounds pretty impressive to me though.

E Zachary Knight
profile image
The core concern would be with aftermarket controllers. Nintendo licenses out the rights to make aftermarket controllers and I don't think they want any aftermarket Gamepads out there. This discovery would make unlicensed aftermarket controllers pretty easy to make.

Mike Kasprzak
profile image
Of course, not like you can buy a Wii U without the game pad, but it's still interesting.

Wylie Garvin
profile image
@Wayne, Christian Keichel:
If they sue just over copyright, Nintendo might lose that lawsuit -- reverse-engineering for interoperability reasons is allowed, and I think U.S. case law establishes that if the only possible way to achieve interoperability is to copy someone else's firmware, then copyright law does not prevent you from doing so.

See for example:
"In the computer context this means that when specific instructions, even though previously copyrighted, are the only and essential means of accomplishing a given task, their later use by another will not amount to an infringement ..."

" In Sega Enterprises Ltd. v. Accolade, Inc., 977 F.2d 1510 (9th Cir. 1992), the accused infringer had to copy object code in order to understand the interface procedures between the Sega game console and a game cartridge, that is, how the software in the game console interacted with the software in the game cartridge to achieve compatibility. Id. at 151516. After learning and documenting these interactions (interface procedures), the accused infringer wrote its own source code to mimic those same interface procedures in its own game cartridges so that its cartridges could run on the Sega console. Our court of appeals held that the copying of object code for the purpose of achieving compatibility was fair use. Notably, in its fair-use analysis, our court of appeals expressly held that the interface procedures for compatibility were functional aspects not copyrightable under Section 102(b) ..."

Of course they'd throw patents and trademarks and whatever else they could think of in there, and the legal costs for the victim would be tremendous even if they ultimately won the case.

IANAL, and this definitely ain't legal advice.

profile image
So basically the Magnetic Gyro and the touch screen controls in the game pad controller is what makes the Wii U controller special. Without it, certain types of game styles would be impossible to emulate. I mean its a neat trick and all, but his demo of using NintendoLand as an example falls down when he has only demonstrated perfect simulation of a duel screen hook up while using an Xbox360 controller to emulate the control methods. I've said this before , the Wii U Gamepad is much more that meets the eye. It is the developers (including Nintendo) that have to show that off.